Features // Europe

Minsk: beyond the stereotypes of the Belarusian capital
Minsk: beyond the stereotypes of the Belarusian capital

‘Mini-break’ and ‘Minsk’ don’t trip off the tongue. And if you’ve never considered a visit to the Belarusian capital, you aren’t alone. Anita Isalska explores why the city makes for an interesting trip.  Firstly, there’s the popular perception of Minsk as a grey, post-Soviet megalopolis. Another disincentive is the Belarusian visa, a requirement for visitors…

Baikal: exploring Siberia’s epic frozen lake
Baikal: exploring Siberia’s epic frozen lake

Anita Isalska explores the frozen surface of the epic Lake Baikal in Russia.  During Siberian winters, the mercury drops as low as minus 35ºC (minus 95ºF). Brightly painted houses in central Russia’s villages groan under the weight of snow. The surface of vast Lake Baikal freezes. But as I stand its shore, I see an…

18 beautiful pictures of Finland
18 beautiful pictures of Finland

Professional travel photographer Tim Bird shares his love of photographing Finland.  “I’ve been based in the Finnish capital Helsinki for more than thirty years, so I know the country well. Four distinct seasons lend varied moods to endless landscapes of lake and forest. In the far north, Arctic wilderness fells are ablaze in reds and yellows…

What it’s like to be a pilot for a day
What it’s like to be a pilot for a day

It was a beautifully clear evening; the sun was sinking below the horizon and the runway at Heathrow stretched ahead in neat rows of orange lights. The cars on the access road were getting closer and closer, their headlights sweeping across the road in the early evening light. “One hundred”, the automated voice said. I…

A foodie pilgrimage along the Camino del Norte
A foodie pilgrimage along the Camino del Norte

After a foodie pilgrimage along the northern Spanish coast, Ros Walford shares some of her edible highlights of the Camino del Norte. There’s something magical about entering a city on foot. First, you see a rash of buildings in the distance; some hours later, you finally reach the centre, where, stomach rumbling, you follow your…

Stunning video shows why you should travel at home
Stunning video shows why you should travel at home

In this week’s featured video “adventure is on our doorstep” is the message from Sebastian Linda from Saxony, Germany. “We travel to far away places because we expect holidays, recovery, adventure and new experiences. But is that always necessary?”, he asks. In this visual tour of his home state, Sebastian explores it all from the city of…

Hamburg: Germany’s second city is hotting up
Hamburg: Germany’s second city is hotting up

Most travellers thinking about a weekend break in Germany overlook Hamburg and put Berlin and Munich at the top of their wish lists. Yet within Germany, the nation’s second city proves a popular draw thanks to nightlife, shopping and museums. Stuart Forster, a regular visitor to Germany, finds out what Hamburg has to offer. Why…

You can now zip line through Wales at 100mph
You can now zip line through Wales at 100mph

If you’ve ever dreamed of flying through the air at high speed, or wondered what it might be like to jump off a large metal platform and leave your fate in the hands of some rope and wires, then Zip World Titan is for you. Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills visited the disused quarry in…

13 crazy new British beers you need to try
13 crazy new British beers you need to try

It’s an utterly sparkling, adventurous and intoxicating time for beer right now. The number of British breweries is pushing 1400, and there are 70 in London alone – in 2006 there were only two in the capital. Hundreds of small, highly experimental craft brewers have sprung up in garages and industrial estates using borrowed, begged…

The best beaches in Crete, Greece
The best beaches in Crete, Greece

Crete has easily the longest summers in Greece, and there are plenty of beaches with which to fill those long, lazy summer days. Whether you’re into watersports, skinny dipping or good old-fashioned sunbathing, the island almost certainly has a stretch of sand to suit your tastes. Elafonísi Elafonísi Beach comes as an exotic shock. The…

6 enticing alternatives to Italy’s big sights
6 enticing alternatives to Italy’s big sights

You’ve hiked the Cinque Terre, gondola’d down Venice’s Grand Canal and got Renaissance art fatigue in Florence’s Uffizi. So what’s next? Italophile Natasha Foges picks six less-known places that offer all the charm of Italy‘s big sights. If you like Lake Como try… Lake Iseo Of the six Italian Lakes, it’s Garda and Como –…

9 of the world’s best white­water rafting spots
9 of the world’s best white­water rafting spots

Rough Guides’ adventure sports expert Helen Abramson gives us her top tips on some of the world’s best adrenalin­-pumping whitewater rafting. Rapids are classified from I–VI, where grade VI is “un-runnable”, so the Grade V rivers listed here are essentially as thrilling as it gets. 1. Zambezi River, Zimbabwe Africa’s most exhilarating rafting is found on…

A giant underground trampoline has opened in a cave in Wales
A giant underground trampoline has opened in a cave in Wales

Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills goes deep underground in the heart of Snowdonia National Park to discover the latest, and craziest, adventure activity in North Wales. A Victorian slate mine close to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog was once where miners wielded hammers and chisels to eke out a hard living from the rock. Today, it’s…

Discover Zagreb, Croatia’s capital of cool
Discover Zagreb, Croatia’s capital of cool

The Croatian capital Zagreb has enjoyed the dubious honour of being underestimated twice over. Cold-shouldered by Croatia-bound travellers because it’s a landlocked city without a beach, it has also been ignored by city-breakers bound for Prague, Kraków or Budapest. One consequences of this relative neglect is that Zagreb is one of the few European capitals…

14 magical sunrises that prove it’s worth getting up early
14 magical sunrises that prove it’s worth getting up early

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there’s nothing more tempting than sleeping in until noon while you’re on holiday. But if you can bring yourself to brave the odd early morning, you’ll discover a magical world as dawn breaks. From…

10 free things to do in Amsterdam
10 free things to do in Amsterdam

There’s nowhere quite like Amsterdam. You could
 be sitting nursing a drink outside one of its cafés, chugging by boat along its canals, or riding its ringing trams, and you’ll sense immediately that you couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. Of course, there’s a slew of first-rate attractions, but it’s not all about big…

Gintonic is the only thing to drink in Barcelona
Gintonic is the only thing to drink in Barcelona

Whatever you’re looking for from a night out, you’ll find it somewhere in Barcelona – bohemian boozer, underground club, cocktail bar, summer dance palace, techno temple, Irish pub or designer bar, you name it. But when it comes to drinks, gintonic, as it’s known, has always been a favourite. In recent years, however, there’s been a…

Passport to write: travel writing competition
Passport to write: travel writing competition

** This competition is now closed ** Do you want to become a travel writer? Have you always dreamed about getting paid to travel the world? We’re on the lookout for talented new authors for our online features section, and have teamed up with Journeys are made @ gapyear.com to give someone the chance to write for…

7 European cities you’ve not been to but must visit
7 European cities you’ve not been to but must visit

We all know about the big European city breaks like Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam, but what about Maribor in Slovenia, Osijek in Croatia and Cadiz in Spain? If you’ve already been to all the big boys, or just want to venture off the well-beaten tourist track, it’s time to discover some seriously unsung cities. Here, we’ve picked…

A first-timer’s Guide to the Canary Islands
A first-timer’s Guide to the Canary Islands

Pre-conceptions are a funny thing. If someone told you about an archipelago of islands set adrift off the coast of Africa, an oasis that boasts superb beaches and perennial warmth, which is home to the world’s second largest Carnival, award-winning wines and Spain’s highest mountain, you’d probably want to visit. If they revealed they were…

10 great places to go walking in Scotland
10 great places to go walking in Scotland

Billy Connolly famously said that “there are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter”. Yet anyone who loves walking in this hauntingly beautiful country knows that even the weather can’t spoil the bleak majesty of its ancient landscape. It’s the rain, wind, sleet, snow, sun, and constantly changing light bursting from vast, shifting northern skies…

The one Magna Carta exhibition you need to see this year
The one Magna Carta exhibition you need to see this year

This feature is brought to you by the Magna Carta – indirectly, at least. 2015 marks 800 years since the signing of the first Magna Carta (Great Charter) in Runnymede, England. While it was retracted and reinstated by various monarchs a number of times in the following years, the document has become an international icon of…

Escape rooms: would you pay to get locked up?
Escape rooms: would you pay to get locked up?

Paying a stranger to lock you and your friends in a room filled with fiendish puzzles sounds an unlikely holiday activity, but “escape rooms” are springing up around the world. Shafik Meghji got locked up in Budapest… The email was brief and ever so slightly unsettling: “Please arrive punctually at 16:30 to Erzsébet Körút 8,…

11 breathtaking Welsh views
11 breathtaking Welsh views

Picturesque Wales has long drawn holidaymakers to its unspoilt countryside, rugged mountainous terrain and long, lonely coastline. Whether you’re after a dream-like hike or scenic drive, beautiful views aren’t hard to find. Here are some of our authors’ favourites – walks, nature reserves, beaches, railway journeys and much more – taken from new Rough Guide…

Milan – finding a real city beyond the concrete catwalks
Milan – finding a real city beyond the concrete catwalks

Milan. Where chihuahuas are shepherded around in handbags and the streets double as concrete catwalks. Where high-fashion stores pump out perfume the way that Subways leak doughy aromas in less fabulous cities. It’s understandable that few place Milan, with its shallow reputation, at the top of their Italian city bucket list: Florence trumps for art,…

15 of the most impressive castles in England
15 of the most impressive castles in England

Historic attractions abound in England. Wherever you’re based, you’ll find imposing palaces, gothic cathedrals and chocolate-box villages within easy reach, but among the most impressive examples of the country’s heritage are the slew of majestic castles. Taken from the new Rough Guide, this is our pick of the best castles in England Alnwick Castle, Northumberland…

The best of Scotland’s Outlander filming locations
The best of Scotland’s Outlander filming locations

If you live in North America you’ll probably need no introduction to Outlander. This epic TV series is already massive on the western side of the Atlantic and has finally hit UK TV screens courtesy of Amazon Prime. For the uninitiated, think of Outlander as a cross between Game of Thrones and the movie Braveheart.…

How to see Paris on a budget
How to see Paris on a budget

From the new Pocket Rough Guide, we’ve selected some of our favourite tips for seeing Paris on a budget. A trip to Paris, famous as the most romantic of destinations, is one of those lifetime musts. Long the beating heart of European civilization, it remains one of the world’s most refined yet passionate cities. Yet…

5 of the best Greek islands
5 of the best Greek islands

Greece offers well over two hundred inhabited islands of all shapes and sizes, set like gems in the sparkling Ionian and Aegean seas – so you’re really spoilt for choice when planning a visit. Former resident and Rough Guide to Greece author Nick Edwards picks five of the best Greek islands for exploration. For archaeology:…

Brilliant boozers: 12 of the best pubs in London
Brilliant boozers: 12 of the best pubs in London

Taken from the new Pocket Rough Guide, this is our pick of the best pubs in London.  London is a very big city. In fact, it’s the largest capital in the European Union, stretching for more than thirty miles from east to west, and with a population of just over eight million. Ethnically and linguistically, it’s also…

Quiz: can you name these famous sights?
Quiz: can you name these famous sights?

Do postcards and travel posters paper your walls? Do you pride yourself on your travel knowledge? We’ve selected ten of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sights around the world to put you to the test. Can you identify the famous sight from the picture? Be warned, sometimes places can look surprisingly similar…

Video: 24 things not to miss in Germany
Video: 24 things not to miss in Germany

Whether you’re dreaming of Berlin’s buzzing nightlife or want to write your own fairytales on the Romantic Road, you’ll find a wealth of exciting things to do and see in Germany. Here, we’ve picked 24 of our highlights. Explore more of the world in video with the Rough Guides YouTube channel >

6 great day trips from Rome
6 great day trips from Rome

Taken from the new Pocket Rough Guide, here’s our pick of the best day trips from Rome.  Rome is one of the world’s most enthralling cities, and you may find there’s quite enough to keep you occupied during your stay. But it can be a hot, oppressive city, and its churches, museums and ruins are…

Video: 24 of our favourite things about Ireland
Video: 24 of our favourite things about Ireland

Ireland is a beguiling place: there are craggy coastal cliffs, lively pubs and history abounds. These are our favourite things to do in Ireland. Explore more of the world in video with the Rough Guides YouTube channel >

Derby: the unsung hero of the Midlands
Derby: the unsung hero of the Midlands

Lottie Gross puts her preconceptions aside and discovers why Derby might be one of the UK’s most misjudged cities. When I told my friends I was planning a trip to Derby I got one of two reactions: mocking laughter, or looks of utter confusion. I have to admit, it’s never even been a consideration on…

These are the world’s most bizarre spa treatments
These are the world’s most bizarre spa treatments

If you’re after some rejuvenation on your next break but still fancy a bit of an adventure, there are a whole host of alternative therapies offered around the world. From snail facials to a spot of sauna whipping, you can invigorate your body and soul with a smorgasbord of weird but wonderful wellness treatments. Here…

The best places to experience Moorish Spain
The best places to experience Moorish Spain

Descended from North African tribes of Berbers and Arabs, the Moors ruled parts of Spain from the eighth until the fifteenth century, focusing much of their domination on the southern province of Andalucía. During their 800-year rule, the Moors inevitably left their mark upon Spanish culture – in its cuisine, language and architecture. Many vestiges…

Dublin: what to see in the Year of Irish Design
Dublin: what to see in the Year of Irish Design

This is the year to discover the Irish capital’s burgeoning creative scene. The country’s designers are stepping into the limelight to celebrate the Year of Irish Design, and Dublin is taking centre stage as 2015’s World Design Hub. Visitors already arrive in their droves for the city’s the literary connections, the Guinness and that intangible…

Video: 24 things you shouldn’t miss in Wales
Video: 24 things you shouldn’t miss in Wales

Once voted one of the world’s most beautiful countries by Rough Guides readers, Wales has something for everyone. From the mountains to the stunning coastline, here are our top things not to miss in Wales. Explore more of the world in video with the Rough Guides YouTube channel >

The best hostels in Europe
The best hostels in Europe

Taken from the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget, here’s our pick of the best hostels in Europe. Europe presents an irresistible challenge to the budget traveller. From London’s Royal Parks and Amsterdam’s canals to İstanbul’s Grand Bazaar and the Berlin Wall, just getting tangled up in its sights is a huge draw –…

Video: 17 things you shouldn’t miss in Iceland
Video: 17 things you shouldn’t miss in Iceland

One of the world’s most beguiling countries, Iceland offers endless vistas of volcanic landscapes, black beaches, snow-topped mountains and one of the coolest cities in Europe. Here, we’ve compiled 17 things not to miss. Explore more of the world in video with the Rough Guides YouTube channel >

Through the looking glass: find the real Alice in Wonderland
Through the looking glass: find the real Alice in Wonderland

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. That means Mad Hatters and Cheshire Cats will be everywhere from London to Manchester this spring. But Alice’s story finds its heartland in the villages of Cheshire, where the author was born, and in a seaside resort in…

Quiz: can you identify the country from its outline?
Quiz: can you identify the country from its outline?

Are you a cartographic clever-clogs or due a geography refresher course? We’ve compiled the outlines of ten different countries – large and small – without any rivers, seas, mountains or cities to help you. Can you deduce the country from its shape alone? Take the quiz to find out…

A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums
A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums

Sex museums are nothing new. Dozens were erected across Europe during the Swinging Sixties when the sexual revolution was in full swing. These days the orgy of sex museums has slowed to a mere mouthful, though they have been stimulated by a new breed of ‘erotic’ museum that aims to steer more towards art than…

The Rough Guide to Czech beer
The Rough Guide to Czech beer

Taken from the new Rough Guide to Prague, here’s our guide to Czech beer – and where to drink it. The Czechs drink more beer than any other nation, downing approximately a pint a day for every man, woman and child in the country – in fact, more beer is drunk here than water. Czech beer (pivo)…

How many of these funny place names are real?
How many of these funny place names are real?

Do you know your Bottom Flash from your Cock Alley? Have you ever taken a trip down Fanny Hands Lane? The UK has a plethora of rude, silly, strange and downright funny places names. You might not believe it, but Shingay cum Wendy is a real parish in the county of Cambridgeshire, and the village of…

Why Reykjavík makes the perfect weekend break
Why Reykjavík makes the perfect weekend break

Iceland might not be the first place that springs to mind when you’re planning a weekend away. The obvious cities like Paris, Berlin or Budapest would probably occur to you well before Reykjavík becomes an option. But after a four-night jaunt across some of Iceland’s impressive landscapes, including the Golden Circle and Reykjanes Peninsula, Lottie…

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